THIS MAY NOT be the best of mornings to bring up a subject so close to so many for so long into last night, but when else do tax collectors and their paying customers think about simplifying those awful forms? So we hereby file our annual complaint about the extra nuisance math that the District's income tax forms force on city taxpayers.
If you file Maryland or Virginia state income tax returns, you are better off on this score than District taxpayers. The forms from the two states look much like the federal returns; as in a majority of the other states, the information and arithmetic that is required is derived almost entirely from the federal return. This means that you can start the state tax ritual with the income you show on you federal return, then make some modifications and come up with the amount taxed by the state.
Not so in the District: for one thing, the city doesn't allow the federal dividend exclusion accorded by the federal government; but it does allow something Uncle Sam doesn't, which is interest on obligations of the U.S. government. There are differences, too, in deductions and adjustments for moving expenses, gasoline taxes and even contributions for charitable and educational activities. For example, District law says deductions for contributions are limited to organizations that carry on a substantial part of their activities in the District; this means that residents who live near the D.C. line and attend church a block or two away in Maryland may not deduct their contributions.
There you have a few of our reasons for filing a complaint with the District Council and a plea for simpler tax forms. Some changes have been made in the past, thanks to legislation introduced by council member Polly Shackleton. But without accepting every single federal tax policy or losing great amounts of money by changing the local tax math, the council could make life easier every April for taxpayers as well as the auditors in city hall.